“You made some comments in the newsletter introduction last week about Obama’s speech at the UN. While there is no shortage of critics of Obama’s lack of a strategy in the region what I don’t see is anyone offering an intelligent alternative. What do you think we should do in the Middle East?”. ~ Don K.
Don, thanks for the question. First and foremost, as most of you are aware, I consider Obama’s foreign policy to be his largest failing and undoubtedly view our actions in the Middle East though a less then unbiased lens. I will attempt to explain a thought process I do not agree with, while pointing out competing opinions on the subject.
Obama’s actions and inactions have closed doors to potential options that were less costly in the past. It has also opened doors to potential options that, unfortunately, most observers like myself view as unlikely to bear fruit. Sadly, regardless of good or bad strategy, the end state of our current strategy in the Middle East is an all but certain degradation of our influence in the region. The degradation of influence ultimately paints us into a corner where the only remaining option to maintain U. S. interests in the region is military force.
Rebuilding our influence in the region will certainly fall to the to the next U. S. president. To save you the read, the short answer is all that we can do is wait until after the election. The current administration has set the course we are on, and Obama has proven stubbornly resistant to changing it. The most poignant evidence of that resistance is the revolving doors in leadership at the department of defense and intelligence communities. The course he is pursuing is a nearly 180-degree shift from the previous 35 years, and it will take time for us, our allies and our enemies to understand its implications. The best I can offer is to review the administration’s strategy and where it may leave us in a year because what we are currently doing is defining the options that will be available to us in the future.
The most common mistake I see when discussing Obama’s strategy in the Middle East is to claim that it does not exist. That is very different from claiming it is ineffective, poorly conceived, etc… Obama has a strategy, and that strategy largely consists of disengagement and Counter Terrorism. These are based on his perception that U. S. voters are more tired of U. S. casualties (military or civilian) then they are of a degradation of long-term U. S. interests. In this case, he has proven his strategy to be effective in that we re-elected him on that platform.
U. S. interests in the Middle East primarily consist of Energy Stability, Nuclear Non-proliferation, Counter Terrorism and the Expansion of Democracy. Traditional instruments of national power are Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic. We’ll take a very cursory look at the strategies Obama has employed, and what impact they have had in hopes of providing an increased understanding of our options and how they developed and have shifted. Continue reading